Category Archives: Images Of Haiti

Happily Married

I don’t know how long Gislène and Léon have been together. Suffice it to say that they’ve been together a long time, long enough to have twelve children. And though only nine of those children survived infancy, the oldest ones are married and in their thirties and the youngest is Nadine, a fourth-grade girl in her early teens.

They were not, however, ever married. Not, at least until Sunday. Early last week, I went by to see how Léon was doing, and as I was leaving he asked me to come to his wedding. Léon hasn’t been well. He has had kidney trouble. He’s been weak and in some pain. My doctor came up to see him and arranged several tests for him down in Port au Prince.

I hadn’t heard about the wedding. But, then, neither had most of the rest of our small community. They had chosen, for whatever reason to keep things quiet. When I mentioned it to Madan Anténor, with whom I do most of the gossiping that I do in Haiti, she was delighted, but also very surprised.

I went to the church with Mackenson, their third-to-last surviving child and the member of their family I know best. He has been doing math with me on the blackboard I put on my front porch for a couple of years. He also does odd chores for me when I need someone. He’s an eighteen-year-old, now finishing the sixth grade. He’s especially attached to his dad, and he couldn’t have appeared happier.

He was the only one of the children who went to the church, and he and I arrived late. I wasn’t the only one wondering whether his lateness and the other children’s absence from church was a sign that they didn’t really approve of the proceeding. An older woman came up to him after the ceremony and asked him about that directly. He answered that they were all happy about the marriage, but that the others were organizing the reception.

The church they held the wedding in is really just a palm-leaf enclosure in someone’s backyard. The ceremony was held on the occasion of a visit by a pastor from down in Port au Prince. He doesn’t come often, but he’s the one in their congregation with the legal right to marry couples. The place was decorated with white sheets, which were used to cover the deteriorating palm-leaf walls. There were balloons scattered here and there that gave the space some artificial color.

After the service, the first challenge was to get back to the road, where a car was waiting to take them to the reception. It was a hard little walk for Gislène, who was wearing very high heels with her long wedding gown.

The reception was held at Gislène’s small, one-room house in Ba Osya. That’s the next village up the hill from Ka Glo. Gislène and Léon do not live together, and they don’t intend to any time soon. She lives with their youngest daughter, and he lives with their two youngest sons. I’ve been told that the separation has nothing to do with conflict between them, that it is, in fact, a simple but effective form of birth control that they agreed to when their twelfth child was born and then died.

Most of us got to Ba Osya on foot. It’s not far. But it’s traditional for Haitian couples to get a ride to the reception. Normally, this would mean on horseback. But Léon and his family have long been connected to the family of one of my neighbor’s Madan Boby, and her son has a small vehicle. He seems to have learned neighborliness from his mother. He gave them a ride. But then they waited for me to get there so I could photograph the arrival.

There was a small crowd waiting, and it included most of their children, children’s spouses, and grandchildren. Any question of their children’s feelings about the marriage was quickly put to rest. They were in very high spirits: cooking, serving, entertaining, and serving as the parents’ hosts in their own mother’s house.

Shortly after I sat down with other guests under a tree, Mackenson called me aside. He invited me into the house to have a bite to eat. One of the challenges of hosting a Haitian wedding reception is that you don’t know how many people will attend, and every one who attends expects to be fed. It calls for a mixture of kill and diplomacy. I was invited to join the most important guests, who were eating first inside the house. Feeding us inside meant that the hosts could conceal from others just what they were giving us. We were offered the more expensive dishes – meat, salads, and fries – which were in short supply. Other guests would get beans and rice.

I don’t know Léon really well, and I hardly know Gislène at all, but I know several of their kids, and they are really nice people. They speak well for the folks who raised them. I wish them years of happiness together.

Flag Day

May 18th is Flag Day in Haiti, an important national holiday in a country that, despite its struggles, is intensely proud of its place in history. On May 18th, 1803, military leaders of the army of slaves that was rebelling against French rule met in Akayè, on the coast just north of Pòtoprens. There they planned the strategy that would lead to their victory over the forces of Napoleon’s France. They would also adopt their first red and blue flag.

Schools close for Flag Day, and there are celebrations across the country. I was in Matènwa, at the community school there, and I was pleased to be able to join their celebration for the second time.

Preparations for the day’s events started early, in the school’s kitchen. There would be two meals served, so there was a lot to do.

Signs were posted, asking people not to litter. Haiti produces much, much less litter than do the States, but it can sometimes appear to be a lot because waste management is poorly organized. A wheelbarrow did duty as a receptacle for trash.

A group of students and teachers set up an exhibit of handicrafts they’ve made. More and more the school feels that developing handicraft skills among the children might be one way of helping them towards a small income.

Before things got started, the kids got their first meal: lemongrass tea with bread.

Once they had had their tea, they lined up under the flagpole to sing the national anthem.

They then left the school’s small yard, to parade up and down the road through town. They met the children from the other school in Matènwa, and the two groups paraded together.

The two groups marched back into the Community School, and sat around, ready for the music and other entertainment.

The show opened with a speech by a seventh grader, Richena. She talked about Flag Day, about what it should mean to Haitians.

Each class got up and sang a song or performed a skit.

The fifth-graders performed a song. The boy on the right is Jantoutou. He’s deaf and mute, so I wonder what singing with his classmates feels like to him. But he didn’t miss the chance to be a part of things.

The school had visitors from the Central Plateau, 15 schoolteachers from Circa Carvajal, who came to Matènwa to see what non-violent, student-centered teaching looks like. They introduced themselves to the crowd.

The school’s small band accompanied many of the acts.

This little boy was tired enough that he didn’t mind clinging to a strange white man.

The day ended with a feast: beans and rice with vegetable sauce for a couple hundred people.

It was a great day. It offered a whole community the chance to celebrate its nation’s proud history together. I wonder whether July 4th was once like this.

Here’s a short video of the parade. The kids are singing the national anthem.

The Graduation in Boukankare

Even just getting to the graduation in Boukankare was challenging. Boukankare is in the lower part of Haiti’s central plateau, one of the poorer regions of this very poor country. It has a Fonkoze branch in the front yard of a clinic run by Paul Farmer’s organization, Partners in Health. Farmer, it’s said, was tired of seeing patients cured of diseases only to die of poverty instead. He recognized that financial services are critical to a community’s health, and so he invited Fonkoze’s collaboration.

The branch cannot be said to be in any kind of a downtown. It’s not in a village center, nor even at a crossroad. It’s just along a road, one made of loose dirt and rocks, that branches off of the major road between Pòtoprens and the important inland city of Ench. It winds up, down, and around some pretty rough terrain, fording a couple of streams. In times of heavy rain, it can be impassable.

But the area of Boukankare served by Fonkoze’s Ti Kredi (Little Credit) agents is remoter still. It’s especially hard to reach from the Boukankare branch. Instead, one takes a short ride straight west out of Mibalè, along one of the best major roads in Haiti, the one from Mibalè to Ponsonde in the Artibonite Valley, Haiti’s major rice-growing region. Then you get out of your vehicle, and cross the Artibonite River in a large canoe.

On the far side of the river, there are no roads, only footpaths. The getting to the graduation meant a substantial walk. The graduation was organized in the structure that the credit center meets in. It’s just a roof on some poles, but for the graduation the women had pooled their bedspreads and tablecloths to create a multicolored building with a style all its own.

The women had invited their families, friends, and neighbors, so by the time things we were ready to get started, there was quite a crowd.

It was a fairly formal occasion. The guests were well dressed.

Here are the graduates, with Fonkoze’s Executive Director, Anne Hastings, in their midst. She led the delegation I accompanied from the central office, in Pòtoprens, to join the celebration.

The graduation proceeded as such events generally do. There were speeches, the first one by the Center Chief, the woman whom her fellow members the had elected to represent them in their dealings with Fonkoze.

The second speech was something like a valedictorian’s address, a long and formal speech by one of the women who belong to the center. I don’t know how she was selected, but she read her address well, which is remarkable since few of the Ti Kredi members can read at all.

Then two of the women gave testimonials, describing what Ti Kredi and Fonkoze had done for them.

The leaders of each of the five-women solidarity groups are called “manman gwoup”, the group’s “mothers.” They each received a certificate, recognizing them for their leadership and their service.

Special recognition was given to the one solidarity group that didn’t graduate. This deserves an explanation. They didn’t graduate because they fell slightly behind their repayment schedule, and they fell behind because one of the five original members of the group fled the area, without making a repayment on her second loan, worth about $40. Solidarity group members sign as security for one another’s loans, so her defaulting left the other four group members with an extra debt.

The women pitched in, dug into their savings, and made most of the loan good. The rest of the credit center gave them a hand to complete repayment of the bad debt. They then took their third Ti Kredi loan about a month late. They’ll graduate in early March. (See: The Non Graduate)

At the end of the ceremony, there was a magnificent feast.

In academics, we don’t tend to say “graduation.” We prefer to use the word “commencement” instead. I think we do so for good reason. What matters at such moments is less the course of studies one has completed than the new challenges that lie ahead. Those challenges are, after all, what the education was for.

The Ti Kredi ceremony was similar in this respect. There was as much talk among the women about the gwo kredi, or “big credit” they were preparing to enter as there was about the program they had completed. That fact itself reflects one measure of the program’s success: It is giving its participants the sense that they can move ahead.

The First Day

Not many of my friends have visited the place I stay in Cité Soleil. Those who have, might not recognize it if they were to see it now. The members of IDEAL have transformed it into the classroom they needed to establish the beginnings of their community school.

Monday was the highly anticipated first day. School was to start at 2:00, but two of the students had arrived by 11:00. The guys sent them home because they hadn’t yet bathed. By 1:00, however, four of the kids were in their places and ready to get started.

We brought in a ringer for the first few days, an experienced first-grade teacher. His name is Robert Cajuste, and he’s a part of the staff of the Matènwa Community Learning Center, on Lagonav, an island in the bay of Port au Prince. ( That staff has taken a strong interest in the efforts of they young members of IDEAL, and have been providing advice and training, though it means dealing with the long, hard trip over land and sea between their home in the mountains of the island and Port au Prince.

Robert led the class from the moment they lined up beneath the Haitian flag to sing the Haitian national anthem, to when they went home.

Here, he’s created an attendance list, with the kids help. They will each get used to seeing each students’ name on the wall of the classroom.

Here, he’s writing down what they say they’ve drawn so that they can see their own words together with a picture that they created.

Robert had each of them write their names on name tags that were then stapled on to files that will contain each students’ work. The kids can’t write letters yet, but he asked them to print their names as they imagined them. He would then write the name correctly on the same tag. Here they are, hard at work, “writing” their names.

One point of his work was to enable the IDEAL team to observe an experienced teacher, and they crowded into the room to watch every step.

It was a great first day. Here the kids are, in line, ready to go home.


Changing the World

One difference between what is generally called “liberal” education in the States and what is often called “popular” education around the world is the way that latter aims quite explicitly at changing the world we live in.

I recently wrote about one group of students – literacy students in Pwent Latanye, Lagonav – who are taking a firm grip on the future of their community. (See: Pointedes Lataniers.) After spending last Thursday with them, I rushed back to Matènwa to spend the day with the Matènwa Community Learning Center, a whole school devoted to the development of the village it’s in.

Then I left early Saturday morning for Port au Prince – specifically, Cité Soleil – to work with another group. I’ve written about them often enough. They are IDEAL, a youth group in Belekou, one of Cité Soleil’s 34 neighborhoods.

They have increasingly sought to expand their vision from one that looks to their own advancement to one that looks towards community change. They are planning a couple of projects, but one important idea they had required very little planning, just a decision to start. They decided to start giving their street a regular cleaning, sweeping away the dust, clearing away the trash, and draining the standing water. They chose a recent Saturday morning to get started, and have been working every Saturday ever since.

The first step is to give the road a good sweeping. The first photo is Daniel with a broom. The second is Diomson.

Then, they take shovels and remove the trash, paying particular attention to the gutters.

Then, they cart off the trash.

One of the interesting first consequences of the project has been that younger boys have joined them. They want to feel as though they are part of a group of older guys.

Perhaps the most important part of the work is removing the standing water. I write “water”, but that’s not the right word. The dirt, dust, oil, and grime that gets into it would be bad enough, but few residences in Belekou have toilets or outhouses or anything of the sort. So the bubbling ooze that circulates through the gutters is a rich source of more than just mosquitoes, more than just of an ugly, piercing stench. It’s also a source of a wide range of disease-carrying agents. Trying to clear it out of the streets as best they can is a big job for the guys. It’s too big, in fact, because what is really needed is some sort of sewage system. The guys just do what they can.

It’s hard to be sure what direction this initiative will take. For one thing, the guys need to stick with it. If they do stick with it, it will be most meaningful if others begin to join them.

But in the meantime, they are making a real difference – if, perhaps, a small one – in the quality of the life that they and their neighbors lead every day. And what’s more, it’s a change rooted in a decision they took together by reflecting as a group on the state of their world.

An education that can lead to such change is, I think, popular in the sense that it is of the people. But by establishing the conditions under which the guys pay ever increasing attention to their world and to the roles they might play in it, such an education is liberal as well. It’s liberal in the sense that it liberates. It frees them from the limitations that inattention to their own possibilities imposes.

Haril, Salomé, and Daniel

Pointe des Lataniers

Pwent Latanye is a village of about 2000 on the northwestern coast of Lagonav. Here’s a photo of a sunset there:

It’s a beautiful scene, but it hides an ugly, dangerous truth. The water in this picture is not the bay the island of Lagonav rests in, but standing, salty rainwater that collects in large low-lying spots throughout the town. The water can be more than a foot deep, and it’s a perfect breeding ground for the mosquitoes that carry malaria and other diseases. The lack of outhouses in the village ensures that standing water means other health problems as well. The water is not the only problem that the community faces, but it’s a big one.

This year, however, there’s a new group in the community working to address them. It’s an adult literacy center, and I visited it last week.

Just getting to Latanye is a nuisance. Here is some footage of the trip from Matènwa, in the mountains in the middle of the island, to Latanye, on Lagonav’s western tip.

It’s fun to see flocks of flamingoes along the way.

Here are some views of the town.

The group has been meeting since September. I had attended an organizational meeting, but had not been back since.

The objective that the center’s organizers originally set was to see whether they could establish a literacy center that would do much more than teach participants to read and write. We wanted to help them take on the very serious problems their community faces. The method they have been using depends on participants’ working together to create graphic representations of their knowledge.

That’s a complicated way to say something simple: They create a picture that organizes what they know in a manner that helps them confront it. For example, they made a map of their community with everyone’s home on it. They then marked next to each home the number of school age children in it who are not in school. To their surprise, they counted 40 such kids.

They then sent teams to talk to all the kids’ parents. Some of them just needed to be encouraged to see the importance of school. Some needed a couple of gourds for books or shoes or uniforms. A few of the kids were needy enough that no small amount of money would have enabled them to go.

So the participants encouraged and cajoled, but they also reached into their own pockets, providing up to 100% of the money their neighbors needed to send their kids to school. 38 of the children are now attending one of the town’s two schools.

Another discussion concerned the way standing water was making it hard to get around in the community. So they set aside a couple of days, and brought rocks down from the hills outside of town to create paths. They pitched in to buy a couple of sacks, and got a local organization to volunteer money for more.

Here they are working together:

They expect to get the cement they need in the next few weeks.

The day I visited, they were working on a graph showing the prevalence of sickness in the community by month. Robert Cajuste, a teacher from Matènwa who visited with me, led the activity.

First, the drew a month-by-month grid on the blackboard. The months are represented by letters drawn across the top. A different participant drew each letter.

Then, they added pictures on the left hand side. Each picture represent a disease that’s common in Latanye. The top one, for example, is a man holding his head. He has a headache. It’s the symbol they chose for fevers.

They really enjoyed the work.

Here, the calendar is complete:

They then worked together to transfer the chart onto paper. They’ll be able to study it in the upcoming weeks to see whether there are things it helps them explain.

While there’s no guarantee that the process will suggest the solutions they’re searching for, it will bring them together to reflect seriously on their world.

And they enjoy it.

Boul Does Math

I hadn’t had a full Sunday in Ka Glo in several weeks, so I was looking forward to the day this past Sunday. I had imagined a day of relaxation: a little writing, but nothing too demanding, a little chatting with neighbors, but nothing too serious. I might take a stroll, but wouldn’t go too far. I would start looking at the copy of //Huck Finn// that I brought back from my last trip to the States.

I could not have been more pleasantly wrong.

At about 7:00 AM, Boul was at my door. He was, more particularly at my front patio, where I have a black board. He wanted to do some math. Between Boul and the several others who came during the day, it was well into the afternoon before I had an extended break.

I’ve been doing math with local school children almost as long as I’ve been coming to Haiti. It’s something I enjoy, and seems useful enough.

But Boul only just started coming. He’s in his early twenties and decided to return to school this year after missing several years. He registered for the sixth grade, even though he’s never been in the fifth. He’s hoping to manage the national primary school graduation exam next summer. He can’t give up working just to go to school, but he found a school well down in Pétion-Ville that he can attend from 4:00 PM until 7:00 PM. That means he has to walk about two hours home every night in the dark, but it’s worth it to him. He says he wants to get through ninth grade, and then just earn a living.

Boul lives with his mother, stepfather, and seven younger siblings in Upper Glo. One of those siblings is Ti Kèl, who’s been working with me a lot for more than a year. He does small chores around my house, runs errands for me, and generally makes himself extremely useful. So Boul’s seen me work with others, and a few weeks ago he came by for some help of his own. We had a pretty good time, so he decided to come back for more.

He was working on two different kinds of problems. The first he learned quickly, with very little problem. He was given a fraction and either the numerator or the denominator of a second fraction, and he had to complete the second fraction so that it was equal to the first. So, for example, he might be given two-thirds and a four as a numerator. He had to figure out that the complete second fraction was four-sixths.

He found the second type of problem much more difficult, ad we spent hours working through a rather long set of them. He would be given a number of minutes, and he would have to convert them into hours and, sometimes, days. 4976 minutes, for example is three days, ten hours, and 56 minutes.

The biggest difficulty was that he couldn’t reliably divide. He knew all the moves, but was unaccustomed enough to them that he would invariably make one little misstep. But he stuck with it for several hours, with a range of onlookers.

Here are his little brothers, Ti Kèl and Roland:

Here’s his little sister, Fara:

Here’s Ti Kèl again, with their neighbors Patoutou and Kaki:

He really worked hard:

Here. He’s taking a well-deserved break.

The little bit of tutoring that I do could hardly be my central activity here in Haiti. But I think it’s important to me. It helps me keep the very really difficulties that learners face right in front of me. And it’s both useful and encouraging for me to stay close to a young person like Boul, whose interest in learning is enough to bring him to the blackboard on a beautiful Sunday morning in Ka Glo.

Challenges, Challenges

Helping poor women gain access to the financial services they need to change their own lives can be challenging work. A recent visit to the Fonkoze branch in Sodo highlighted some of the obstacles that have to be faced.

Here is the front of the Sodo branch:

The most important action at a branch, whether in Sodo or in any of Fonkoze’s 32 branches, doesn’t happen at the branch office, but in credit centers that can be quite a distance from the branch.

A credit center is a collection of 25, 30, or 40 women. Often even more. They might meet in a local church or in a school, but they might just meet under a large tree. The women are organized into groups of five who take their loans and make their repayments together. The centers meet twice-a-month, once for reimbursement or disbursement of credit, and once for discussions. They also host Fonkoze’s education programs. Fonkoze might offer two or even three different educational programs simultaneously in a credit center, depending of that center’s needs.

Here are some pictures of the spot on Savann Long where one of Sodo’s larger credit centers meets. The members built the structure for themselves in one member’s front yard.

Now Haiti is roughly the same size as Maryland, so with 32 branches – 36 by the end of the year – you might think that credit centers would never be that far from a branch. In a sense you’d be right. They aren’t far. But their proximity doesn’t help you if the roads are bad enough.

And in the Sodo area they are bad enough. On Tuesday, we had to go to the center in Savann Long on horseback, over four hours each way, and on Wednesday we went to another center in Zoranje, a long hard motorcycle trip from Sodo.

One challenge was crossing the river that separates Sodo from most of the communities it serves.

Crossing from Sodo was much easier than crossing back. On the way back, it was well past dark and raining hard. We had to gallop just to reach the river before it rose to high to cross.

The man carrying this schoolgirl is a professional river forder. He charges about three Haitian gourds (less than ten cents) per child. He gets them across without their dirtying their uniforms.

The river isn’t the only barrier. The roads just aren’t good.

We passed a local market on the way.

Logistical aspects of Fonkoze’s work, like transportation, present only one small piece of the overall challenge. I hope to write more about other pieces soon. But for two hard days in Sodo, transportation seemed like enough of a challenge to me.

Bainet to Lavale

One of Fonkoze’s most successful branches is the one in Lavale, a rural town outside of the city of Jakmèl. To say that the branch is “in Lavale” is true, but it doesn’t tell the real story. The branch serves credit customers throughout a large region in southern Haiti. Credit agents on motorcycles ride over two hours to get to centers as far away as Bainet and Côte de Fer.

These photos are from a recent visit to a credit center in the hills outside of Bainet, in a very small community called Montoban.

The trip to Montoban, through the mountains around Lavale and Bainet, was beautiful.

Here is the center. It meets inside a church/schoolhouse. There are roughly 85 members, each of them a businesswoman who supports her family with the enterprise her Fonkoze loans enable her to build.

Like all Fonkoze credit centers, the one in Montoban is led by a center chief, a woman elected by her fellow members to help Fonkoze’s staff coordinate center activities. My visit was not part of a scheduled meeting, and the message that we were coming was never delivered. But she heard our motorcycles and rushed down to meet us. Within five minutes, she had procured a megaphone, and was calling her women to meet. Within 15 minutes 25 women were there. By the time we left a 45 minutes later, there were over 40 women present and others were still arriving.

Here’s the Montoban center chief, flanked by the Fonkoze staff members who serve her center: her credit agent and her education coordinator. She was pretty remarkable.

I spoke with the women about the educational programs they’re receiving right now from Fonkoze. Here’s a photo of their most recent literacy lesson up on the blackboard.

I did some interviews with participants. I spoke to Madlèn, for example.


Here’s my write-up of what she had to say:

My name is Madlèn. I’m from Montoban, a rural area outside of Bainet. Bainet is a city on Haiti’s southern coast.

I am a businesswoman. That’s not to say that I have a shop or a store that sits in one place. My business moves. I go to Bainet to buy beans, rice, sugar, cooking oil, and the other things I sell from wholesalers. Then I bring my merchandise to the different rural markets in the area where I live.

I’ve always needed credit to make my business work, but it used to be that I borrowed from local moneylenders. They would charge 20%, 50%, or even more every month. But a couple of years ago a friend told me about Fonkoze. I joined right away, almost two years ago, and am now on my third loan. It’s for 5000 gourds [$143 U.S.]. I’m really seeing a difference in my profits since I joined Fonkoze.

When the woman we elected as chief of our credit center said there would be literacy classes, I was very excited. I never learned to read and write. I really hated having to just make a cross and leave a thumbprint when they ask me to sign my name.

So I joined the literacy class. We finished one session and are now in the middle of a second. I was so pleased when I took my last loan and signed my own name on the contract.

My children are happy to see me go to school. They’re proud that their mother is learning, and they want to help. But I like doing my homework myself. Learning to read and write is something I’m doing for myself.

I hope that I can continue learning in our credit center. I think it will help me make my business grow. Thank you Fonkoze.

Here’s her signature:

It is not easy for Fonkoze staff to get everywhere they serve, and Montoban was a rough ride. Here’s a short video that can give you some idea. The ride was about two hours, over mountains, across rivers, and through other difficult terrain. I’m on the back motorcycle with the credit agent. He’s shouting advice to the literacy coordinator, Manise, who’s on the front motorcycle. She’s just now learning to ride.

Another Exchange Visit

One of the objectives that the Matènwa Community Learning Center sets for itelf is to share its vision for education with others around the island of Lagonav and elsewhere – both within Haiti and beyond. So when I called its Principal, Abner Sauveur, that the youth group I have been meeting with in Cité Soleil dream of organizing a school for the kids in their neighborhood who are unable to go to school, he was intrigued. We decided to invite the group to send two of its members for a week’s fact-finding trip to the school in Maténwa.

The group chose its Coordinator and Assistant Coordinator, Salomé and Stanley. Here they are in front of the school. Stanley is on the left. They’re calling the guys back in Cité Soleil to let them know that they got to Matènwa safely, after a bus ride ride to Karyès, a boat trip to Ansagalè, and then a long ride up to Matènwa on the back of a pick-up truck.

The most important teacher for them to watch was Robert because he’s the school’s excellent first-grade teacher and first-grade is the one class the guys would certainly need to be offering.

But they didn’t think it made sense for them to spend the whole week in his class. They watched him closely as he worked with his kds to develop their basic reading and math skills, but they wanted to watch other teachers, too. They spent a good deal of time in second-grade as well. They were especially struck by the way Millienne, the second-grade teacher, gets her kids working independently as she provides individual attention to students who need it.

They were also struck by the school’s overall ambience. It’s very informal, especially by Haitian standards. The fact that mothers can bring toddlers to school and let them wander around means that they can pursue their own educations. This is my godson, Ricky. His mother, Lisyan, is an adult woman who chose to go back to school a couple of years ago after having learned to read in a school-sponsored literacy program. She’s now in the fourth grade.

Going to Matènwa meant more than just visiting the school. There were morning visits to have coffee with Anita, Abner’s 80-something-year-old mother-in-law. She makes coffee for me whenever I visit Matènwa, in such lavish quantities that the whole faculty drinks with me. She seemed pleased to have two young men sitting around her fire for her to pay attention to.

One of the school’s emphases is gardening. It keeps its own large vegetable garden, which enables it to offer students and staff three meals each week. One of the days we were there, the guys took their meal with Vana’s third-grade class.

But they also spent an afternoon with the school’s gardening assistant, Elijen, in his own large garden. This was a new experience for the guys, who have grown up in a very urban slum.

They were so struck by Elijen’s work, both at school and at home, that they left thinking about how much they could accomplish by clearing a couple of the garbage-strewn abandoned lots near them and planting vegetables there.

They got to see some of the island’s fauna. This photo of a giant centipede was taken in the house the three of us stayed in. It was over a foot long and had a diameter of nearly an inch.

The guys also see some of the school’s outreach work on Lagonav. Abner and Millienne have been providing training in the use of Wonn Refleksyon for the Lagonav office of Concern, a large international NGO, even as Frémy and I have worked with their offices in Pètyonvil and Sodo. The guys participated in the week’s session in Ansagalè.

After the session, they had some time to sit and talk with Abner.

It was a great week for the guys, and they hope that the school will continue to help them as they work to get their school started.

The school, for its part, seems anxious to help. Abner already made a return visit to Cité Soleil to speak with the rest of the youth group.

Here the guys are at the end of the week with the whole primary-school faculty. I took the photo at the end of the final discussion we had at the school. The teachers had lots of questions about Cité Soleil. It’s a place they are accustomed to be frightened of. Its reputation for gang violence and other crime is strong throughout Haiti.

If nothing else, the visit left the guys with lots to think about.

Note: Many of the pictures in this report were taken by Salomé and Stanley.